Pediatric Medical Emergencies Increase in the U.K.

Presenting problems are similar to 10 years ago, except for fewer with breathing difficulties

THURSDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- The number of children presenting to emergency departments in the United Kingdom increased between 1997 and 2007 to 2008, although the majority of medical conditions presented remain the same, according to a study published online May 23 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Rebecca Sands, M.R.C.P.C.H., from the Nottingham Children's Hospital in the United Kingdom, and colleagues compared the common medical problems of children presenting to the pediatric emergency department of a U.K. university hospital between 2007 and 2008 with those presented 10 years earlier. Data were collected from the electronic patient records of 39,394 children, aged 0 to 15 years, on presenting problems, demographics, and referral sources. The presenting problems were ranked and compared to data from a 1997 cohort of 38,982 children.

The investigators found that medical attendance in the emergency department increased by 42 percent, from 10,369 in 1997 to 14,724 in 2007 to 2008. The 10 most common presenting problems, which accounted for 85 percent of the medical attendances, included breathing difficulty (20.1 percent), febrile illness (14.1 percent), diarrhea with or without vomiting (14 percent), rash (8.6 percent), and cough (6.7 percent). The proportion of presenting problems in 2007 to 2008 was similar to 1997; however, there were 10.9 percent fewer patients presenting with breathing difficulty in 2007 to 2008.

"Over a 10-year period, attendances to the pediatric emergency department have remained similar; however, there has been a disproportionate rise in the number attending with medical conditions. The presenting problems also remain similar, although there has been a significant reduction in those presenting with difficulty in breathing," the authors write.

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